Science Sunday: Beach science

Science Sunday

Well, I was going to give you a link to the two Reading Rainbow DVDs we watched this week all about the sea life, but Amazon has no clue what I’m talking about, and youtube just gave me a bunch of strange links.

After his sun burn is much betterBut, if your library happens to have these:  Seashore Surprises, and Dive to the Coral Reef; get them.


We watched these one day while Jeff was laying there in misery with his horrible sun burn, and then the kids, Mom, and I headed off to the beach giving Jeff some much needed “no kids trying to touch my sun burn time.”  If the kids had their way that’s how they’d watch TV……..





We wandered up and down the sea shore to find some of the things we saw in the video and of course to find SHELLS!


One thing we learned after watching the videos and reading our shell guide that the kelp that comes ashore is a good way to find sea shells.




And as you can see there was a lot of kelp to look through.  A LOT.  As we were leaving we saw construction vehicles moving it out of the way.  Previously there had been no real kelp to speak of.  After a quick google search on my part I discovered we were in PRIME kelp season.  Which also seemed to coincide with when they’re at their busiest (May to August).


So, there was a lot of picking through kelp to find shells (which will become a whole series of Science Sunday posts as we do some experiments with them), and watching the surf to find the coquinas we had just learned about thanks to Reading Rainbow.


I wanted to capture a video of them, but figured someone already had at some point, and I was right, so this is a cool video to show your kids about life as a coquina shell.


Science Sunday: Plants and seeds

Science Sunday
I was given a copy of Planting the Wild Garden by Blue Slip Media to review, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.


Because we’ve been planting a garden.  And before you ask, yes you NEED to dress as a pirate to plant your garden.

It’s a neccessity.

So, “Planting the Wild Garden,” is a story about how seeds are spread and it follows all of the different ways seeds are moved.

I loved the simplicity of this story and the pictures.  They reminded me of the Jan Brett style with pictures within pictures, but more calming.  It’s water color instead of acrylics, so the colors aren’t as bright.


Before reading it we had gone on our annual bluebonnet hike to find a good place to take pictures.  There’s not really any yet.  We need a good day of rain and then no rain for a while to get some.

So, we got a great chance to examine some flowers and try to look for their seeds.  We didn’t get to see the seeds yet, but we saw where the seeds would be.


After reading the book we talked about all the different ways seeds are strewn about, and I remembered this picture from an earlier walk.

It was a great talk about how seeds are grown.

So, all in all I think this book makes a great addition to anybody’s spring plant study.  I look forward to reading this book over and over again.

And, the kids and I are heading out of town to go visit my grandparents in Mississippi, so if you don’t hear from me much this week you’ll know why.  We’re off on a great adventure with my Mom.  Poor Jeff has to stay home and work with only Mac for company.

Oops, this was supposed to be scheduled for Sunday……..  So, it’s up a few days early.

Science Sunday: The ill-conceived nature walk

Science Sunday

017Ha ha ha ha ha, okay I have to say the title amused me.  But, it’s ill-conceived because I hadn’t completely thought through what my goals were.


And yes you can walk for the sake of walking, but I had a learning goal in mind:




Goal 1:  Didn’t happen.  It’s a little hard to gather all of the little twigs and such if you don’t have a bag to put them in.  But, we saw lots of things that would make great nest materials.


Which the kids had no interest in.




Goal 2: Insects- which we didn’t really see all that many of.  Too early in the season probably.  But, Superman proudly flipped over a BIG rock and showed us how there were “bugs under here Mommy, come look and see.”




Goal 3: Birds- which we saw exactly 1.  This vulture.  We see a lot of these in our city, it’s not fully “civilized,” so to speak, so there’s a lot of deer, and other wildlife that gets hit on a fairly regular basis.


But, we did hear a lot of birds.


So, my goals didn’t work out all that well.  Instead we had a totally different learning experience:


Example 1: What made the marks on this tree? 


This led to a long discussion about what animals could possibly do this, and finally my pointing out these aren’t claw marks, but someone cutting the tree.  Why did the person cut it?




Example 2:  What animal did this?


Okay, I honestly have no idea, but we came up with a lot of theories.  To me some of that inner stuff looks kind of like gum that’s melted.




Example 3: Oserving what was there: turtles.  We spent a long time watching these turtles in the pond, and talking about why they’re sitting there, what turtles eat.  What is plankton, what are tadpoles and minnows, so on and so forth.


In all, it was a wonderful day.

But, here’s a couple of take-aways for those of you planning a hike.


1.  Remember the ages of your kid and plan the length of the hike accordingly.  I wanted to go further, but realized we were at a point where we needed to head back, so we did.


2.  Bring snacks and water, even if it’s a short hike.  This always improves my kids’ moods.  We stopped a couple of times on the trail to eat their snacks (granola bars).



3.  Make them stock and carry their own backpack.  They were responsible to put in 3 snacks, and I gave them the water bottles.  The boys got permission to add a flashlight and a stuffed toy.


4.  Check what they put in.  Princess added in her new Bob books, a hard back, and about 10 pounds of weight.  She was not happy when I took away all of that, including the glittery tiara.  She did get to keep some of her wands.


I’m not that mean, or stupid.


Stay tuned later this week for our most frequent conversation piece…….  I bet you’re all curious now!

Science Sunday, bats, and more bats


We finished up learning about bats by learning the difference between microbats and megabats.

Microbats are the smaller bats that eat insects, vampire bats are among these, and they eat blood from mammals, mostly cows and horses.

Megabats are fruit bats.  They don’t use echolocation, but instead use sight and smell.  After all fruit doesn’t move, so you’re not really needing a sensitive way of finding things.

We finished up our discussion of bats by watching the bats fly from the bridge in Round Rock.  It was amusing to me because the colony of bats in Austin is mentioned in our text book as an example of people not understanding God’s reason for creating certain animals.

See, back in the 60s and 70s they had a panic about bats carrying rabies, so they started killing the bats in Austin.  Then they noticed a dramatic upswing in insects, and realized there was a reason for bats.  One bat eats thousands of insects an hour.

So, now Austin has one of the largest colonies of bats in the United States all roosting under the Congress Street Bridge.  It’s very cool, and once my internet is working again I’ll put the you-tube video in.

Oh and the linky, that’s what happens when you write posts with a migraine.

Aren’t the bats cool, and if you want there’s a 2 minute and a 5 minute version.  It’s the coolest thing to see them streaming out of there.

Science Sunday: bats

After reading Christy of Superheroes and Princesses made this super cool bat.  I knew we had to make it.

Mainly because I had a bunch of empty toilet paper rolls sitting in one of the bathrooms.  But, I digress.

So, I made an executive decision to go back in our book to bats, and learn about them for a little bit, rather than continue for this week learning about insects.  Hey, I’m the Mom, and I knew I’d have at least one very happy kid.

And I did.

One of the big things we learned is that bats use echolocation to navigate around.  And when they “hear” something that sounds like food they start making even more clicking sounds to find it.

So, we, and by we I really mean the boys, primarily Batman; set up an obstacle course for our bats to navigate.  He took his “traps” (I think that’s what they were, maybe) and created an obstacle course of crumpled paper for the bat to navigate.

It was so cute watching them pretend to hear the clicks and say, “Oh no something is here, better go another way.”

Then we talked about how scientists studied bats for a very long time and figured out how to use their echolocation for our boats and submarines to use sonar.  Then they had to find a submarine toy and a boat toy and act out how they use sonar.


They also learned most bats eat insects.  So they cut up a bunch of little pieces of paper and said that was the insects for the bath to eat, then they stuffed it inside their bats.

There are some days I just love to sit back and see how their minds work.


And, if you’re needing a nonfiction bat book to read, this is one of the many we’ve checked out over time from the library.  It’s one of our most requested animals to find out about.

Thanks to Phyllis from All Things Beautiful for pointing out I forgot to put in the linky this week (and by the way if you head to her blog she’s starting up a cool mystery series for your kids to do too today, I’m gonna check it out later to see if my kids are ready for it).

Science Sunday: Fireflies


This past week we’ve read about all sorts of beetles, from ladybugs to fireflies.  As soon as I realized we were studying them I tried to look up to see if there was any sort of experiment to explain how they light up.
I came up with nothing.  I saw lots of “go out and count how many fireflies you see,” type of thing, but we don’t really have them here in Texas.
So, I decided instead to have us be pretend fireflies.  This worked out super well because one of the episodes of “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” was about fireflies so we incorporated that as well.

First we got our glowsticks and broke them.  Or rather the kids attempted to, and I ended up breaking them.



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Then we went down to our local elementary school playground and took turns flashing our lights to signal different things.  The boys refused to flash their lights to get a girl to come to them because, and I quote “I don’t want the girl to come and eat me.”  That teaches me for telling them about how some females eat the male of their species.


But, they had a lot of fun flashing their lights to warn about spider webs, or other dangerous things.  I of course was the spider.  Why do I always get to be the bad guy?


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And of course we had to try out the cool effect of waving them around in the complete darkness.


Seriously though the glowsticks were probably a lucky find for explaining fireflies because just like the fireflies glow it’s a chemical reaction and it doesn’t heat up like our lights do.  It’s a very efficient process as far as energy conversion goes.


Downside to this experiment now the kids are trying to convince me I need to let them walk around with them forever.  Oh well.


Have you ever had a lucky find that worked well for you?  I love finding those from time to time.

Science Sunday: exploring caves


There’s just some weeks, where I’m feeling lazy, and this was one of those weeks.  Not that I was, I just felt that way.  So, here’s our odd little contribution.



This is a cute beginner science book with a fun little mystery.  It takes place in New Mexico, not too far from Carlsbad Caverns.  Remembering how they did with our local caves, we opted not to visit there when we drove through New Mexico, but I did want them to learn about the caves, and this was a great extension of learning about the OK Corral, because it had cowboys also.  This book does a lot of covering how to safely explore caves, and how the different formations are made.


So, to practice what they learned in a way they wouldn’t be freaked out, I kicked them outside while I set up their surprise.  And that’s how they spent most of their time outside.  Staring at the door wondering when I was going to let them back in.  I kid you not.



So, how do you safely explore a cave?

1.  Always go in groups of 3.  Never by yourself.  This works out good, I have 3 kids.


2.  Wear long pants and shirt, they should be heavy duty.  We didn’t follow that one.  Pajama pants are not known for their protection.



3.  Bring a flashlight, and climbing gear.  Flashlight we had, climbing gear not so much.  They didn’t say, but I’d add in a first aid kit, but that’s just my kids ability to get hurt.


4.  The general nature rule: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.  And one added for caves: don’t touch the rock formations, that will “kill” the formation so it can’t continue growing and changing (the oils in our hand react poorly with the chemicals in the formations, not harmful to us, but it is to the cave).



Batman’s pictures of the cave.  I took our 3 little kid sized tables and draped a bunch of tablecloths over them.





Inside the cavern, the large room inside a cave, of our cave there was an underground lake.  It’s a mobile lake and also seems to trap people.


Caves often have lakes in them.  We also learned that while bats like to nest in caves, they don’t go deep into them, preferring the twilight area near the cave’s entrance.  They don’t like the absolute dark of the interior of the cave.


I’m hoping to do this experiment from Little Wonders’ Days, and show them how a stalactite grows.


So, it’s not this amazing experiment or anything, but it was fun.  And the kids are begging me to keep this up until Daddy comes home tonight (I’m writing this on Thursday).

Moreno Valley Museum, which apparently I have the wrong name


144 I tried to find the website to link to it, but I’m just getting information to a bunch of other museums based in air force bases, so that’s not what I’m  looking for.

This was fun, for me at least, it was an odd combination of natural history and societal history museum, which made for a fun combination.
They had a mini-zoo, which was essentially a herpetarium.  Hah!  How fun was it to be able to throw in that vocabulary word?  Even if I spelled it wrong.  Okay, fixed now, but spell check apparently doesn’t know what it is.  It’s a zoo devoted to snakes and amphibians.  Here Superman is petting a blue-tongued skink.

He was pleased as punch to pet something that had a blue tongue, blue being his favorite color.

Then they checked out the range of skulls and were amazed at the different sizes available.

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Princess loved the X-ray center and talking about the different bones, and the hugely overweight rabbit.  Seriously, it was huge.

We posed in front of the train, which when Danette was a kid and came here you were allowed to climb on.  Now, apparently, it’s a safety hazard and you have to view it behind bars (yes, I do sometimes think we protect our kids from injury too much).


Than we went into the other part of the museum and looked at all of their different animals.  The kids really enjoyed their “Hall of Mammals,” and looking at the odd combinations.  It was amusing.  Mostly it was Southern California and Desert animals, and then the random polar bear.  Really, I don’t know why.  They weren’t as interested by the birds and eggs.  That was boring.

However when we got downstairs to the history part of the museum, they did love the “house,” which is from the original power companies of the turn of the century and is where the term “in the dog house” came from.  So, I learned a lot of interesting things.  I found this room fascinating.  The kids mainly wanted to play running in and out of the house.

The not interesting part of the museum?  TWO rooms devoted to baskets and basket weaving.  I kept thinking about bad jokes about taking underwater basket weaving classes, but figured that would not be in good taste at that particular moment.  Yes, I can occasionally show restraint, and it rare enough I feel the need to point it out, so you can congratulate me.
I don’t know if this will be readable, that is a word right?  But, it really amused me.  I think it’s an editorial, or a newspaper article giving tips for riding on a stagecoach.  So it had suggestions like, don’t complain about the food, they’re giving the best they can get.  Don’t talk about gruesome things, or point out where someone was murdered, especially if a lady is present.  It was so amusing to read, so I’ve included it here for you to hopefully be able to read.

So all in all, it was a really fun museum to see.  Great for an afternoon adventure, and then we headed off to my next post: Build A Bear……..

Science Sunday: San Diego Zoo

305I’m doing this as a two part post.  Today will be the zoo, and the fun learning aspects of it.  Tomorrow will be cute fun pictures, because what’s a zoo without fun pictures of your kids.

The San Diego Zoo is a bit intimidating.  There’s like a million people there, and buses driving all over, so it’s sometimes a little scary figuring out where to go.  So we went for the wander around approach.

We had fun looking at the animals and figuring out where they lived.  For instance the kookaburra lives in Australia, and its call is used to discourage other birds from coming to places (I know they’ve used it in Texas).

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We spent a lot of time studying the meerkats.  There are all sorts of tunnels all throughout their enclosure that they’ve dug, and we were trying to figure out how the holes get filled back in.  I was wondering if they had someone doing that as their job, and Jeff theorized it probably just collapses from the weight of the dirt above.  Then I realized his theory made so much more sense.
The kids were excited to see Ring-tailed Lemurs because they see them all the time on “Penguins of Madagascar,” (actually I don’t think these are that particular breed, but a similar one), we were intrigued to see the different fruits and what have you that were left on the cage floor for them to eat (I’d show you the picture, but I was only able to get the monkey’s but, and that’s not so fun to look at).

One of my complaints about the zoo, is they set it up in the most realistic way possible, which meant you often couldn’t see the animals because of the way the cages were set up.  So, a lot of the animals turned into a hunt and peck to find them.  I think it took us a few minutes to find this wallaby (I think it’s a wallaby picture).
This rather intrigues me because these are baby flamingoes (the gray birds).  They turn pink because of the shrimp they eat, and these haven’t eaten enough yet.  I wonder if you fed an adult flamingo a different diet would it change color?  In theory it should.
Also, it was intriguing to see the island full of flamingo nests.  They’re about 2 feet tall and cone shaped.  It was so interesting to see.

We spent a long time discussing why many of the camels in the zoo had their humps laying over to the side like in this picture, and after looking at several different websites I found this one, which said basically it needs more food or water.  If it’s well fed and has enough both of the humps will be plumb and standing up.

I had this great video of one of the elephant caretakers explaining what she was doing, but you can’t really hear what she’s saying.  Basically one of the elephants (obviously that’s not a picture of the REAL elephant) had injured it’s leg, and she was waiting for him to come over so she could feed him a pail of bran and IB-profin to help with his pain and swelling.  The funny part is one of the other elephants in the enclosure knew it was there and kept trying to steal the pail from her, so she kept almost getting knocked over and then having to move the pail.

Oh, and something I wanted to make sure to mention.  In case you weren’t aware most zoos and museums on their websites have lesson plans to make your visits better, including suggestions of things to do before, during, and after your trip.  I didn’t really get to look at the San Diego Zoo’s site, but I know the Waco Zoo has a bunch of cool scavenger hunt things to do.  Just thought I’d let you know.

And now that you’ve read my wall of text, what’d you guys do?  I’m going to try my best to make it to everyone’s posts from the past few weeks now that I’m home, no guarantees I’ll make it this week, but I’m going to try………

Stay tuned tomorrow for cute pictures of the zoo, including an incredibly cute baby, who you won’t really get to see……

Science Sunday: Crickets

004 This was one of those experiments that had Jeff and my Mom shaking their head for a while. On Jeff’s day off I made him go with me to the pet store to pick up crickets. Why? To observe them. And we found out all sorts of stuff in the process.
First, in order to keep them alive I had to find out what they eat. I found out they are primarily carnivores, and if you don’t feed them enough protein they will eat the other crickets.

Ummm gross!

005 So, we dropped by my Mom’s and confused the heck out of her by asking for a handful of dog food. Then we headed back to the house, and put the crickets in our butterfly pavilion, and the kids had a blast watching them!

What all did we do with them?

We watched them a lot. We noticed they could climb up the walls. Then we read about them and discovered that’s because of their feet. They’re sticky, like a tree frog (that’s Superman’s observation).

They have chewing mouths. Insects have three different types of mouths: chewing, sucking, and sponge mouths. Flies have a sponge, butterflies have sucking, and crickets and ants have chewing mouths.

And, they had already eaten one of their own by the time this picture was taken.

Crickets do not like cold. We repeated our experiment from here. As a side note, I’m thinking we’ll repeat this with the caterpillars that finally came in. They showed the results of cold much better than the roly polies.

After we took them out of the fridge (after accidentally leaving them in way too long), they didn’t move very much. We left them on our table for a while, and they weren’t warming up.

010So, I took them outside and they warmed up real fast. And boy were they moving then. That’s when we started keeping them outside. 


009 And this picture has less to do with crickets, but something else we learned. Ants like dog food. And they can chew through our pavilion. So, when we went out to observe the crickets that day and discovered the whole thing swarming with ants and all of the crickets up at the top of the cage. That’s when I declared an end to this experiment.

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So, the kids happily went with me as we ran through the drizzle to find a good place appropriately far away from our house (so they didn’t come back, that was the deal I made with Jeff).

010 And as with all excursions we do. What would it be without climbing on something? So, they happily spent five minutes or so climbing all over the rocks near the sinkhole.
Until I said it was starting to rain too much, and I wasn’t really dressed to be soaked.

So, that’s our observation of crickets. I’m trying to decide if I want to risk our caterpillars to see how they do with the cold. I’m worried they might not recover like the crickets did. In theory they should, but after waiting so long to get them I don’t want to risk killing them.

As you probably noticed in the butterfly post, I did not end up trying the caterpillars in the refrigerator. Maybe next year.